Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Family Gatherings"

          My siblings and I talk weekly. The habit, established years ago when you paid for a long distance phone call by the minute, resists change. I usually contact my sister during the week. We chat about family and friends. Although each of us have only met the other’s friends a few times, over the years the life events of these people weave into our conversations. We spend time discussing world events and allergy seasons. We share with one another the grind of our jobs (both retired teachers who now substitute to keep out of trouble.) My sister lives in a small Texas town and participates in her church, political party events, and the “this-n-that activities” of her community. We divide our worries and our woes and multiply our joys. These phone calls ebb and flow with a life of their own. Sometimes they last only a few minutes. Other days we drain our phone batteries.
          In contrast, talks with my brother have slipped into such predictability that variations bring unexpected pleasure. I call my brother during the weekend. We enjoy a little contest on who will call first on Saturday without it being too early. These tête-à-têtes time out to fifteen minutes, give or take. My brother loves following weather, so a hurricane in the Atlantic will swirl us into a longer conversation. If I need to download a problem, he offers a sympathetic and non-judgmental ear. If he faces car trouble or a plumbing problem, we’ll figure out a way to fix the situation. As he is single, he sometimes needs another pair of hands to handle household challenges, but I know he’ll never ask for help. Every few months, I suggest that I visit. Sometimes my sister will rendezvous with us. Sometimes my husband and son will make the trip with me. All of us feel it’s important to help my brother maintain the family home.
          Getting to spend weekends or holidays with my siblings always proves a challenge. My sister and brother-in-law spread their holidays in several directions:  their son, daughter-in-law and grandkids; my brother-in-laws siblings; my brother; and my family. Many holiday choices are dictated by my brother’s work hours. If he has consecutive days off, he’ll head for San Antonio. Often times, he only gets a single day at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and so he’ll make the shorter two hour drive to my sister’s house. It isn’t unusual for them to have Stouffer’s Lasagna as a Thanksgiving meal. When my brother has more days off and decides to come to San Antonio, we celebrate the event will special holiday treats and trimmings.
          Over the last few years, my sister and her husband have tied themselves to their town because of responsibilities for one of their community obligations. My brother-in-law runs the local KC hall, and someone almost always uses it on Thanksgiving. His responsibilities include inspecting the hall after the event. This year, my sister convinced him to delegate some of his duties. She called yesterday with the wonderful news that, although they wouldn’t make it up for Thanksgiving Day, they’d arrive on Friday morning! My nephew and his wife and kids have other plans, and so they won’t be adding to our holiday, but we like that different branches on our family tree begin their traditions with family and friends.
          During this week, television sitcoms revel in the mishaps and mayhem of dysfunctional families gathering for Thanksgiving. I appreciate the humor mixed within the discord, but feel especially blessed that our holiday will embrace a laidback air of “adulting” with shopping during the day and nice dinners and drinks in the evenings. 

Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"Food Poisoning and Politics"

  Last Tuesday, my psyche took a full-frontal attack that left me dazed throughout the week.  I arrived home shell-shocked after a rough day at work. One look at me, and my son suggested we eat out for dinner instead of settling for Plain Jane meatloaf. 
  Desiring to give myself a boost, I proposed that we try a new restaurant that had opened recently just around the corner. My nephew thought it would be fun to join us, and so we waited for my husband’s 5:30 arrival before heading out.
  David grabbed the first available parking spot as we could see that the new place already did a booming business. Our chippie waitress highlighted her personal favorites, and we decided to begin our meal with fried pickles paired with a Ranch Dressing and the restaurant’s special blend.
  By 1:30 AM, I knew the wrenching intestinal pain that wracked though my body could only be food poisoning. Some tiny microbe sent my entire gut into “Warning! Warning! WARNING!” alarms. That toxin, no matter how minute, drove my system into protective hyper-drive. 
  For the next seventeen hours, I flushed out every sweet potato French fry, fried pickle with Ranch dressing, and burger bit that lingered in my stomach and intestines.
  My body defenses knew to purge this danger.
  It responded rapidly to the threat.
  It won.
  And while this germ battle raged within, I barely noticed national events. My peripheral senses picked up another visceral response occurring, but on a massive scale. As protests grew, my foggy brain toggled through Facebook and Twitter feeds, and I realized many Americans simply don’t understand the psychological and sociological necessity for hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets to protest against an election they know they cannot change.  
  Protest in our country is not unpatriotic.
  Protest is not the product of childish, whining people who need to “put on their big boy pants” and “grow-up.”
  Protest provides our political “bodies” one way of purging something harmful and dangerous.
         For many of us, the placement of someone like Trump into the White House represents the beginning of an infestation of venomous mindsets. We know our election process put this man into power. We know we’ll honor the change because this transfer of power is one of the fundamental strengths of our country and the Constitution.
          But, like my gut forcing out poison, the discord of protest can possibly end with a cleansing.

Copyright 2016 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman